Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Introducing a Second Language

Here "Madame" teaches the toddlers about the rooster, frog, and goat using lots of songs in French.
When I was a small child, my parents paid an international graduate student to come to the house each Saturday morning and teach us kids some Chinese.  The theory was that if we could learn to recognize tones early on we could recognize them later, when our brains weren't so "plastic."  I grew up with a facility for languages and even took a year of Chinese in high school.  Studies now show that learning a second language improves our brains' executive function and makes them more efficient.

Hands on with the bell....
Whatever language you introduce to your young children, they will soak up the sounds like a sponge!  Here my friend "Madame" has been coming for the last 15 minutes of each class, singing songs and speaking in French to the children.  She is great with children (she's a mom of five girls herself) and very playful.

....and the ladybug.
She doesn't use any books or CDs or flashcards or worksheets--and yet the children are learning to say "au revoir" or repeat after her the words for colors or animals.  One mommy reported that her daughter was singing "the froggy song" at home after class (the frog has been a returning character in Madame's short lessons), and when I saw another toddler yesterday while on a walk she was able to say, "Bonjour!"

Madame is on the floor, on their level.....
...and highly engaging.
Since we mommies are in on the classes we are learning along, too.  After just four sessions I have finally overcome my confusion at French pronunciation and can see that there are many, many cognates--making the language much less intimidating!  Since the French written words may not seem to go with the spoken sounds we hear, maybe it's a big advantage that these children are learning the language before they are reading and writing.

Because she is playful herself, the lessons are fun!

Learning the names of colors...

....and introducing the horse!
There's a song about a ladybug.
I certainly wouldn't compare this to a systematic language lesson, but it is a wonderful introduction for toddlers.  I also wanted to try some more "one on one" language instruction for Alleluia, so Madame has given her a couple of individual lessons.  Here they were trying out a new work which is better used with slightly older children (but it's so adorable I wanted to see them try it!).  They are available in English and Spanish, too.

Here Alleluia learns some of the words for things at the zoo from the "Labeling the Cloth" work.  This is the company that makes these.
The black sheep is from the Nursery Rhyme cloth.
How do you say "adorable!" in French?!?

Here's a short article about the benefits of being bilingual.  It turns out to be good for our brains--even if we are learning later in life--and the benefits extend into old age.





16 comments:

  1. 你好!I love this! Here in Singapore, it is mandatory to take up 2 languages, First English and our ethnic language (mandarin for us Chinese) as sencond language. Well, I can't speak mandarin very well, so I can't communicate with my kids in mandarin. So il read mandarin books to get them familiar with hearing and seeing mandarin print words. It's working so far! But yes, they seem to be hesitant to speak in mandarin just like their mummy! So this is a good reminder and activity I can do with my kids, in mandarin of course! :p

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  3. Thanks Sarah for this educative post. Yes, you've managed to share benefits of being bilingual. I really like the way those kids are gets introduced to new foreign language. I'm planning to let my kids learn foreign language because they're now in the perfect age to gain such knowledge.

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  16. English is the hardest language to be fluent in, in the world. However, it is not the hardest language to learn on the basic level.

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